This Friday and Saturday, parishes around the world will be taking part in an all-night vigil centered on the theme of Reconciliation.
Pope Francis announced during last Sunday’s Angelus address that the vigil would take place this weekend.
“It will be – we can call it this – it will be the feast of forgiveness,” the Pope said to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “We must celebrate the forgiveness that the Lord grants us, just as the father in the parable of the prodigal son did. When his son returned home he celebrated, forgetting all of his sins. It will be the feast of forgiveness.”
Fr. Geno Sylva, an official for the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, told ZENIT that this initiative is one of the fruits of the 2012 synod on the New Evangelization.
“At the close of the Synod,” he said, “we had heard… that the Sacrament of Penance is a privileged place to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness: the place for personal, communal healing.”
“The Synod fathers had asked that the Sacrament of Penance be put, once again, at the center of the pastoral activity of the Church,” he said. “To this end, giving the people the opportunity as a moment of the New Evangelization, to receive God’s forgiveness, this initiative was born.”
The “Festival of Forgiveness” will begin at St. Peter’s Basilica on Friday afternoon, and will continue through the night until Saturday. Parishes and dioceses around the world have also been invited to take part, and many will stay open through the night for prayer and the sacrament of penance. A number of churches within Rome’s city center will also be staying open through the night.
Jesus is there
Over the course of his year-long pontificate, Pope Francis has spoken frequently about the importance of Confession. “The Sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation… flow directly from the Paschal mystery,” he said last month during one of his Wednesday audiences. “Do not be afraid of Confession… Jesus is there, and Jesus is much better than the priests, and Jesus receives you. He receives you with so much love. Be courageous, and go forward to Confession.”
“We are all sinners, all of us,” said Pope Francis during a homily at the Casa Santa Marta last April. “But if we confess our sins, He is faithful, He is so just He forgives us our sins, cleansing us from all unrighteousness…The Lord who is so good, so faithful, so just that He forgives.”
Greater than any sin
Fr. Sylva went on to say it is one of the hopes of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization that the “24 hours for the Lord” will become a tradition, celebrated yearly during the 4th week of Lent.
“Among the goals of the New Evangelization is to make more essential the Sacrament of Penance in the lives of believers,” Fr. Sylva said. “To this end, the season of Lent becomes the most appropriate and evident time to live the experience of the New Evangelization within the light and the beauty, the love and the warmth, and the forgiveness of the Sacrament of penance.”
“Trying to highlight what Pope Francis continues to speak about,” he said: “God’s forgiveness is greater than any sin.”
The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization is also providing materials for reflection in multiple languages which are available for download on their website.